'I know she's in a special place now' - Tributes pour in for brave Dempsey (8) who passed away from cancer
Tributes have poured in for a "brave" and "inspirational" eight-year-old girl, who sadly passed away on Friday.
Dempsey Courtney-Ballantyne (8) from Shankill, Co Belfast touched many hearts as she courageously fought cancer of the spine over the past three years, inspiring people to raise funds to pay for her treatment.
But despite the efforts, the eight-year-old passed away peacefully in the Royal Victoria Hospital surrounded by her family.
She is survived by three older brothers and a sister.
Parents Lynn McInally and Robert Courtney, who are born again Christians, said that Dempsey remained "compassionate and courageous" throughout, adding that they would take comfort in that she is "now with the Lord".
The eight-year-old missed a lot of school as she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
She received the dreadful diagnosis in February 2014, and was left paralysed after undergoing an operation to remove the tumour.
In August of that year enough funds had been raised to send Dempsey to the University of Florida Hospital to undergo proton treatment.
She amazed doctors there by learning to walk again.
Despite the tragedy the family are now enduring, her parents say they have received overwhelming support from the community and are taking comfort from their faith.
Lynn said: "We are blessed beyond the curse of cancer.
"Throughout this journey God has used Dempsey in many ways that have encouraged and inspired others and we take comfort in the belief that He stands firm in His promises.
"The people we have met, the hearts that she touched - it's amazing. I am blessed to be her earthly mummy, but she belongs to God and I know that she is in a special place now, where I will one day spend eternity with her.
"It's hard on people's hearts to accept, but she did not lose her battle, there was victory from the beginning.
"And knowing that, it is selfish to hold on to those we love to fulfil an earthly purpose of pain and suffering when we know that God has called her home to be with Him.
"We rejoice and stand triumphant because we know there is a greater purpose in all this."
Pastor Jack McKee, from New Life City Church in Belfast, paid tribute to Dempsey, who he said was "extremely brave and a real character".
He also extended his thanks to both sides of the community for supporting the family.
DUP MLA William Humphrey added: "I am so deeply sorry to hear of little Dempsey's passing.
"What a brave and courageous young lady, whose death has united the community.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and may God's love surround and sustain them at this time."
A funeral service for Dempsey will take place at New Life City Church in Northumberland Street at 1pm on Wednesday, followed by a cremation at Roselawn at 3pm.